Editors' Picks: The Best Chemical Exfoliators

Updated 10/11/18

Getty Images. Graphic by Cristina Cianci

Lately we've been waxing poetic about the dangers of using abrasive scrubs, especially if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. As much as using a good scrub on our complexion feels like it has to be working, the not-so-immediately-apparent damage it's doing to your skin is rather frightening. According to celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau, overscrubbing can cause dehydration, redness, and premature aging—yikes! Aren't those the things we're trying to prevent/remedy when we exfoliate?

The answer to this beauty conundrum? Skip the scrubs. Says Rouleau, "From reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles to hydrating the skin and treating acne, using an exfoliating acid is the key to more youthful, glowing skin. These exfoliants include ingredients such as glycolic acid, AHAs, and BHA, and enzymes such as pumpkin, papaya, and pineapple." Here at Byrdie, we're big fans of chemical exfoliators. They're easy on our skin and give us that dewy glow we're always yearning for. So without further ado, below are our favorite chemical exfoliators ever.

Dr. Dennis Gross Smooth & Flawless: Peel + Moisturize $48
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All the Byrdie editors unanimously agree that these pads from Dr. Dennis Gross are a must-try. Not only do you get a radiant glow after you're done using them; they also help clear up those deep-rooted blackheads you think have taken up permanent residence on your face. It's truly a five-star product.

Miracle Tonic
Amanda Lacey Miracle Tonic $95
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Says senior editor Hallie Gould, "Aside from the fact that it's both gentle and effective (congestion is a problem we all have, I'm sure), it's one of those super pretty products that look Insta-worthy on your vanity."

Bliss That's Incredi-Peel $20
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Gould also loves these resurfacing pads that she says "genuinely make you wake up prettier." If that doesn't sell us, we don't know what will.

Cane + Austin Miracle Pad $88
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Another product coined a "miracle," these pads gently alleviate those common beauty blunders like fine lines, age spots, and hyperpigmentation.

Elizabeth Arden Skin Illuminating Retexturizing Pads $56
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Get the spa treatment at home with these resurfacing pads that reveal brighter, more radiant skin after just a few swipes. Your skin will thank you.

Fresh A Peel, 1.7 fl. oz.
Goldfaden MD Fresh A Peel $65
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Lactic acid and fruit enzymes combine to rejuvenate skin in an incredibly refreshing way. Just a small drop on the face and neck is all you need; then rinse clean to reveal smoother, softer skin. 

Key Ingredients

Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that lightly exfoliates by dissolving dead skin cells and balances your skin’s PH level.

Naturopathica Sweet Cherry Brightening Enzyme Peel $56
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Wellness editor Victoria Hoff says of this peel, "It smells like you have Pop-Tarts on your face—in a good way." Anything that smells like a sweet treat is reason enough for us to try it, but couple that with the fact that it actually makes your skin look luminous, and we've got a winner on our hands (er, our face). 

Radical Skincare Age-Defying Exfoliating Pads $75
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Just take a quick scroll through the reviews of these exfoliating pads on Sephora, and you'll see why senior editor Deven Hopp loves them.

Most of these exfoliating pads are saturated with a copious amount of product. To get the most bang for your buck, cut the pads in half and get twice the use out of product.

Rodial Glamoxy 15% Fruit Acid Exfoliating Pads $60
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Editorial director Faith Xue is a fan of these oxygen-boosting pads. They're even gentle enough to be used twice a day (unless you have sensitive skin—once a day) for the first week.

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